Florence history is about as long as any other part of Nebraska. Europeans settled here even before Nebraska became a territory. First fur trappers/fur traders entered the territory, some even living with the Native Americans that occupied the territory. At the same time that the fur traders came along, the missionaries advanced into "Indian territory" and in particular, a couple were present in the area of Florence.
Corps of Discovery Expedition
In 1804, the Corps of Discovery Expedition traveled along the banks of the Missouri and even camped nearby. There is even speculation that Clark traveled in the area, specifically, very possibly that he traveled to Belvedere Point Lookout.
The Florence area is especially important in regards to the Lewis & Clark journey. Having encountered the first signs of natives, arrangements were made to have the first council meeting with the natives, which took place just north of present day Florence. While camped in nearby Hummel Park, a lot of thought, discussion, and planning must have occurred in preperation for the important meeting that was about to take place.
Latter Day Saints
In 1846, the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) arrived on the east banks of the Missouri River (near South Omaha) with plans to continue to the Rockies. A very few made it across the Missouri River, then camped (around 60th and L) while waiting for more to make it across so they could continue as a group. A better ferry needed to be built, so as more arrived, they camped on the Iowa side (around L Street/South Omaha Bridge Road).
The continued persecution of the remaining residents in Nauvoo, Illinois, forced many to flee their homes, settling in small camps across the Mississippi River in Iowa. Concerned for their safety, Brigham Young (the leader of the advance party) decided that they should camp for the winter nearby, plus send a rescue mission back to Nauvoo. Thomas L. Kane, a friend to the Mormons petitioned the United States Government to allow the Mormons to stay in the area for the winter, and continue their journey by providing services to sustain themselves. The U.S. Government allowed the Mormons to camp for two years in what was called "Indian country" (on the west side of the Missouri River near Florence but further west). Initially setting up a camp about four miles west of the river (60th and Mormon Bridge Road), due to differences of opinion among the native nations that resided here, the Mormons moved back toward the river and built a community in present day Florence.
After Becoming U.S. Territory
During the time of the Mormon's stay here, it was discovered that the Missouri River had a rock bottom, a unique feature not very common along the Missouri River. That important discovery led some enterprising gentlemen to make plans to build a town on the location next to the river. When the Nebraksa Territory was opened for settlement in 1854, work was immediately started on the same location that the Mormons had camped nearly a decade before. The idea being that a rock bottom would be a perfect place to build a bridge for the transcontinental railroad that the entire country had been talking about.
When the territory opened for settlement, work started immediately on the new town. Those days were Florence's hey-day. Why the railroad didn't come through "Rock Bottom" is a fascinating story, and what took place instead is even more interesting.
The Story of Our Name - Where did the name Florence Come From?
How Florence got its name, is another fascinating part of the history that is still unraveling. The Brief History tells of our start, and a little about the family that founded Florence. Their stories are most compelling. If you are ready, let's start exploring.
- History (Brief)
- Local Mormon History
- Historic Markers
- Historic Sites (including Omaha Landmarks) -or- (Omaha Landmarks only)
- Historic Events
- Historic Homes
- Historic Cemeteries
- Not Forgotten (Florence's Past Citizens honored)
- Historic Names mentioned on the web.
- Pictures from a bygone era.